• My affiliate links won't hurt you, but they might help feed my kids. See my full disclosure policy in the main menu.

Homeschooling through the Tough Times

image provide by contextualfeed.com

image provide by contextualfeed.com

A parent loses a job.  Someone close to the family passes away.  Love strikes a family member like lightning–a flash that is gone quicker than it came, leaving heartache and tears in its wake.  Wind blows the roof off the house.  Illness sneaks in.

Things happen.  Bad things.  But when we choose to homeschool our children, sometimes it is necessary to soldier on.  It is difficult.  Sometimes it feels impossible.  We just want to give up, give in, lay down, and let the world roll over us.  It’s hard to concentrate on teaching a lesson, which makes it hard for the littles to soak that lesson in.  Suddenly, your entire learning experience is in upheaval.  How do you handle it?

Prioritize

The first thing you should do, after an appropriate amount of time off to grieve, handle the stress, or get the job completed, is think about what is most important when you get back to the classroom (or dining table or blanket outside).  If your state has laws about what has to be done throughout your school day, figure out the bare minimum you can get by with and stick to that schedule for a few weeks or even months until you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Adding a bit of structure to your littles’ days will help them deal with the stress, too.  So none of you may be up to 4-8 hours of education right now.  Try to set aside 2 hours of a lighter load.  I’m a firm believer that littles should practice math daily.  Writing practice is also essential.  So if you are just too stressed or sad to teach in-depth lessons, print out some math worksheets for them to work on by themselves.  Find some copywork or notebooking pages for them to do.  Grab a list of writing prompts and give them their head.  Then read together.  Read Anything.  Fiction, nonfiction, comedy, adventure.  A lighter load can make such a difference in your healing process.  It can also take one less stress off your mind.  And remember, you can turn any moment into a teachable moment, so count those as part of your school day, too.  As long as your littles are still learning something, you are doing a fine job.

Here are some great sites to find those things:

Math worksheets

Reading comprehension

Writing prompts

Notebooking

Be Flexible

Especially if you’re grieving, it can be hard to make yourself get out of bed and do things.  On those days, take the day off.  If you have a bad Wednesday, make up for it on Saturday.  If you have a bad morning, make it up in the evening.  If you have a bad week, tack a week on to the end of your scheduled year.  I have actually done this, and it worked out just fine.  Sometimes life gets in the way.  We work around it.  The glorious thing about homeschooling is that we don’t have to do it from 8-3, Monday through Friday, August through June.  We can do it whenever we want.  Be flexible With Yourself.  Allow yourself to work through the crisis without adding more to it.

But Be Consistent

Your littles, as I said before, need a sense of normalcy and a certain amount of structure will help with that.  If you let things drift too much or for too long, you are leaving your littles without an anchor.  Math every day.  Not too hard to accomplish.  Even when your patience is at an end, you can put together a basket of busywork and tell them to get to work.  Explain to them how you’re feeling (don’t try to hide it; kids are so much smarter than we think they are, and they See Everything), let them know it’s going to be a work-by-yourself day, whatever you have to do.  Just don’t leave them dangling for too long, wondering if they will ever have ‘school’ again.

Practice Patience

And I do mean practice.  Especially when we’re dealing with financial crises, our patience seems to have run out before we wake in the mornings.  It becomes easier to snap at people who have done nothing wrong.  Everything makes us angry.  This is the time when we have to learn to leave the room before we use our voices.  Walk away, take a breath, allow yourself a minute to think about what’s really bothering you.  Then take another breath.  Decide if what just made your temper snap really deserved the tongue-lashing that wanted to leap from your mouth.  Remember, they’re just little.  They have no intention of trying your patience during this difficult time.  Also, be patient with yourself.  We are so hard on ourselves.  We want to hurry up and get over this so we can move on.  But it doesn’t work that way.  Hard times have their own timetable and our desire to make them end sooner doesn’t change it one whit.  So don’t be disappointed when you are still sad after a couple of weeks, still stressed even after the roof has been fixed, still wondering where you’re going to come up with the money.  Be patient.  As my neighbor says, they can’t eat you.  It really will work out in its own time.

Seek Inspiration

Whether it be spiritual or just support from other homeschoolers.  Connect with peers, with blogs you love, your pastor, whoever will make you feel that spark again that got you homeschooling in the first place.  When I’m feeling blah, I like to go to my favorite craft sites and find something new to try with the Littles.  Whatever works for you, find that inspiration and soak it up.  You don’t even have to do anything with it.  Just reading about it might help you be better prepared to face tomorrow.  For spiritual inspiration, try Alive to Grace.  For spiritual homeschool inspiration, try A Homeschool Mom. To remember why you love being a parent, check out Mom Life Now. For a good belly laugh about parenting and homeschooling, go to Stories of Our Boys.  For really awesome craft ideas, look at The Crafty Classroom.  Come here.  Email me.  I promise to be here for you.  You never know when I might need you in return.

Take a break

At a homeschooling seminar I spoke at this year, a lovely young woman approached me and asked what to do about her preschool-age daughter, who seemed to balk at all of her lessons.  After sitting down with her for a while, I learned they had lost two very close loved ones that year, and there had been an inordinate amount of upheaval in their lives.  My advice to her was to stop pushing.  Her daughter was grieving.  She was grieving.  She needed to give them space to do that.  No one would expect that sweet little girl to care about learning her ABCs or handwriting just them.  The mother was worried she was failing in some way.  I told her to take a break.  Don’t push her daughter to do ‘schoolwork.’ Read with her, sing the alphabet with her, buy some of those great bath paints and let her make letters with her fingers.  I told her she would be surprised at the end of a couple of months how much her daughter had learned without scheduled, paper schoolwork.  If you have older littles and you decide to take a break, set some parameters.  Tell your kids you’re going to take a break, when you will be picking back up, and what you expect from them during the break.  That way they still have that sense of consistency.

Sometimes whatever the tough times are, they are just too tough.  Don’t push yourself or your littles to achieve a grand school year during those times.  Do what you can.  Give your family a break.  But do soldier on.  Don’t give up.  Don’t let the world roll over you.  There will be sunshine again, and you will be glad you didn’t send your kids back to school or shut down completely.  Because

Love wins,

KT

P.S.  My series 25 Days of Lit in Your Homeschool will pick up Monday with Day Four: Insects. 🙂

25 Days of Lit in Your Homeschool Day 3: Water

nzbwf

This post contains affiliate links

We haven’t seen the sun here in 2 weeks or more.  I am not exaggerating–it has rained at least a little every day, and there has been no blue sky to speak of.  It is a strange thing indeed to be feeling the onset of winter blues in the middle of summer.  Normally, we would be at the beginning of our summer drought–a period of about 2 months when we pray for rain.  Not this year.  This year we have flash flood watches every day.  Our yard is starting to resemble a jungle because even when it’s not raining, the grass is too wet to mow. We’ve only been able to get in the pool once in the last two weeks and it spilled over the edges when we added our bodies to it because it is overfull.  It. Is. Wet.  So I thought it appropriate for our books today to be about water.  All kinds of water.  Because, come on, we’re drowning here anyway!

There are so many different ways to teach about water.  Pond studies, river studies, ocean studies, rain cycle studies…  I could probably keep listing, but you get the picture.  With that in mind, here are several books you can use to add literature to a few different types of water study.

Water Dance by Thomas Locker

We love this book.  It takes you through all of water’s paths in non-rhyming verse, using delicious words like sparkling, plunging, roaring, glistening, and spiraling.  The watercolor illustrations are so yummy you will fall in love with water all over again, be it in the form of rain, mist, mountain stream, or the sea.  This book is excellent, and I do mean Excellent, for helping to introduce the water cycle to your littles.  It gives them a visual for just about everything water goes through on our lovely planet.
The Water Hole by Graeme Base

This book does many things–it’s a counting book and a puzzle book, and at first glance you might think it suitable only for the very young.  But the illustrations are Absolutely Gorgeous, and it reminds littles of just how many species depend on water and what might happen if that water disappears. If you are studying ponds or other types of water holes, or if you are studying our dwindling freshwater supply, this book will make a good addition.  Plus, you can get this super-awesome coloring book to go with it.
Amos & Boris by William Steig

Another brilliant book by Steig, this one is about a mouse who falls overboard in the ocean and is rescued by a whale.  It’s a true lesson in kindness and helping one’s fellow… mammal.  In pure Steig style, there’s plenty of high sea adventure, and eventually our little mouse gets to repay his big friend’s favor.  This one would be a fun addition to any ocean study.
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

This brilliantly uplifting adventure is sure to please any little.  Based on a true story, it tells the tale of Karana, a native Californian who lives alone for 18 years on an island in the Pacific Ocean.  In true Robinson Crusoe fashion, she makes a home for herself and builds a life.  So many things to learn from this book, I can’t even list them.  Speaking of Crusoe,
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Another tale of survival on an isolated island, this book also has a lot of chapters about the ocean itself–its dangers, its beauties, how a person can fall in love with it and want to live on it.  It’s one of our favorite books because it is so full of adventure and truly sound ideas for surviving on one’s own.  It would be a brilliant addition to an ocean study.
Downriver by Will Hobbs

If you’re studying rivers, this adventurous tale about a group of teens who steal a raft and take off down the Colorado River will be a good addition.  There are wonderful descriptions of the river and the Grand Canyon, and lots of lessons about life and growth in this one.  Even if you have a reluctant reader, this one is sure to please.

Learning about water and all its guises can make for a long lesson.  Give that lesson a bit of fun with one or more of these books, and your little will remember what he’s learned as he relates it to the literature.  You can’t beat that.

Oh, and maybe could you do a sun dance for me?

Love wins,

KT

Day One: Donkeys

Day Two: Summer

25 Days of Lit in Your Homeschool: Day 2 Summer

This post contains affiliate links

This post contains affiliate links

Ah, summer.  That golden time when the clock seems to slow, the morning brightens earlier, the night darkens later, and the day is filled with so much possibility we feel we might burst.  It is like that for littles, and it is like that for us as adults.  School gets a little lazier.  The rules ease up a bit.  There is fun to be had, and we are going to have it.

Learning about what makes summer Summer–which hemisphere it is visiting and what the sun and the earth are doing to cause it–is an eye-opener for most littles.  All they know is that suddenly it is warm enough to play outside every day, even in the rain, and the swimming pools are open, and popsicles are sweeter on the tongue when you’re sweating buckets.  A good lesson about summer might include what animals are lurking about that we don’t see in winter, what insects are taking our breath with their beauty or just flat annoying us, what the trees are doing to cause All That Green.  And of course, we must have books to help us celebrate.  Here’s a short list of books you can include to help your littles get the full effect of marvelous, magical summer.
Frog and Toad-The Complete Collection by Arnold Lobel

Thank you, Arnold Lobel.  These stories and their illustrations are so lyrical and daydream-inducing.  They make me want to be a toad.  They probably fostered my love of amphibians.  There are several stories here that encompass summer and will leave your littles hankering to get outside and explore.  Summer and The Garden spring immediately to mind.  If you have any of these books on hand, definitely add them to your lessons about summer.  They will show littles a bit of what summer is about, and the stories always drive home the value of true friendship.
Georgia Music by Helen V. Griffith

This book.  This one.  The watercolor illustrations capture a southern summer so gorgeously your little will get lost in them (and so will you).  The story, about a little girl who spends a summer in Georgia with her grandfather and learns the music of nature as well as the music he makes on his mouth organ, will melt your heart.  When her grandfather is forced by old age to move up north with the girl and her mother, he misses the Georgia music terribly.  So the little girl plays a mouth organ to recreate the sounds he misses and eases his heart.  Beautiful.  The bonus is the reminder to your child to listen to the crickets and the frogs and the birds and all the stunning music in her own backyard.

 

Summer Days and Nights by Wong Herbert Yee

This brightly-colored book tells of an entire summer day and night through the eyes of a little girl who is looking to entertain herself.  The gentle rhyme of the book adds to the lazy, summer-time feel.  She goes on a picnic, takes a swim, sips lemonade, and catches a butterfly.  She sees an owl and hears a frog.  There are lots of reminders about how cool it is to be outside in summer and what your little might run into if he gets out there.  Lots of fun.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I know, I recommend this book For Everything.  But come on, what better summer novel is there?  I mean, ever?  The scene where Atticus has to take care of the diseased dog pops into my head any time I hear the phrase ‘dog days.’  Jem and Scout playing with Dill in the backyard?  Um, hello!  Summer!  I’ve sung the praises of the many lessons of this book many times over, especially in my favorite characters posts, so all I’ll say here is that it is a truly amazing addition to any lesson plan, and it would certainly help put your littles in the summertime mood.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Hello, more frogs and toads.  And water rats and badgers and moles and a variety of other animals to befriend.  This book not only opens up the imagination to summer, it gives you a great jumping-off place for an animal study.  The whole world of the animals is centered around a river, which gives you an opening for a water study.  The story is magical–again about the value of friendship–but also funny and entertaining.  You can’t really go wrong with this gem.
Watership Down by Richard Adams

Another of my all-time faves, Watership Down is an engaging story about a group of rabbits who venture away from their warren to find a new home.  A good way to teach your kids about courage and doing what’s right as well as about loyalty, this book is one adventure after another.  It makes a wonderful read-aloud.  My Littles loved it from the first page to the last and still create games around the story (we read it together 3 years ago).  It gives an insightful look at both the habits of animals and human nature that will stay with your littles for a long time to come.  In fact, my entire extended family still says that someone has ‘gone tharn’ when they are shocked or frightened into stillness.  Read the book.  You’ll get it.

I just have to say here, that even if you aren’t studying summer, read all these books with your littles.  At least 4 of them make it on my top 20 list.  Maybe even top 10.  And you know as well as I do that my list of favorite books is probably thousands-long, so that is really saying something.

Love wins,

KT

If you’re looking for a way to add lit to lessons about donkeys and you missed that post, take a look at Day One.

25 Days of Lit in Your Homeschool: Day 1 Donkeys

 

nus3r

This post contains affiliate links

Adding Literature to your daily lessons is super easy to do.  A good story can be such a marvelous addition to anything you’re teaching your littles about.  It doesn’t matter if you have primary, middle, or high school level littles, studies have shown that the brain doesn’t make too much differentiation between reading about an experience and Actually Experiencing it.  Which means that an interesting tale can help subject matter stick with your littles for the long haul.  Yet another excellent reason to encourage reading in your homeschool.

I’m starting out this series with donkeys for a variety of reasons, none of them having anything to do with how important donkeys are. 🙂  Mostly just because one of my all-time favorite picture books features a donkey, but also because in the freebies section of this site there’s a free Animal Study worksheet that will go well with these book suggestions.  So without further ado, here are some great books for your littles to read while they’re studying donkeys.

 

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig

I’ve mentioned William Steig before–he wrote one of my favorite chapter books for littles, Abel’s Island.  Sylvester’s story is very sweet and a good lesson about being careful what you wish for.  The drawings are simple and colorful and the writing is exemplary.  I have many fond memories of pulling this book off the shelf as a child and getting lost in its pages.  Perhaps it doesn’t really teach anything about donkeys.  Who cares?  It is a beautiful tale your littles will thoroughly enjoy, and it will remind them to be grateful for what they have.

 

  The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith

This is a great read-aloud for littles, with lots of wordplay and hilarity.  The watercolor pictures are soft and lovely, but the depictions of the donkey and the various things that make him wonky are hilarious.  The book comes with a free downloadable song of the story, so that’s something great to get stuck in your head. 🙂  It also provides a lesson on diversity and how being different is a quality we all have and that is not a bad thing.

Donkey-donkey by Roger Duvoisin

This is the story of a donkey who is embarrassed by his ears.  All the other farm animals have beautiful ears; why do his have to be so long?  He sets about following the advice of his animal friends in order to solve his problem (reminiscent of Leo the Lop by Stephen Cosgrove, another all-time fave of mine.  In fact, I have a lop-eared rabbit named Leo).  But when a little girl comes to the farm and admires the donkey’s long ears, he is given a new-found confidence.  The simple pen-and-ink drawings are entertaining and the lesson about loving yourself for who you are is priceless.

The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne

No way can we talk about donkeys here without mentioning Eeyore, the all-time best donkey ever.  Any of Milne’s collections will have him in them, but my favorite Eeyore story is in this one.  If you have littles that love the Disney version, go ahead and find a Disney picture book about Eeyore.  But if you really want to them to know this loveable guy, go for the original.  Lots of lessons here about learning to recognize when people love you and dropping the soul-sucking pessimism.  Plus, he’s just plain Funny!
Teeny Tiny Ernest by Laura T. Barnes

Here’s another tale about loving yourself for who you are (why are donkeys so good for that?!).  In this one, Ernest gets up to all kinds of hijinks while trying to impress his friends with his height.  Of course, he is not tall, so he doesn’t fool anybody.  Soon he realizes that he’s the only one who notices his size–all his friends like him for who he is, not what he looks like.  Another wonderful lesson, told in a fun, engaging way.  Ernest has a whole series of books, too, if your little falls in love with him like we have.
The Last Battle (Book 7 of The Chronicles of Narnia) by C.S. Lewis

This final chapter in the Narnia books stars Puzzle the donkey as one of the antagonists.  Puzzle is a bit dense but has a good heart.  He is the faithful sidekick of Shift, an ape who has it out for the Narnians.  Shift manipulates Puzzle into carrying out his orders, including risking his life to steal the skin of a lion from the Caldron Pool, then wearing it to imitate Aslan.  In the end, Puzzle does what is right and, after a short conversation with Aslan, is admitted into Aslan’s country.  As in all the Narnia books, there are lots of lessons here about how to be a good person, but particularly in Puzzle’s case, how to think for oneself and not allow peer pressure to influence decisions.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

This is one of Shakespeare’s funniest plays and Bottom, whose head gets transformed into that of a donkey’s by Puck, is the funniest character.  He is silly and foolish, and nothing about his antics ever really redeems him.  It makes this a great play with which to introduce your littles to Shakespeare.  Plus, I’m pretty sure you can get it for free on Kindle or you can read it online for free here.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

You can’t have a group of political farm animals without including a stubborn donkey.  In fact, Benjamin the Donkey is so stubborn he absolutely refuses to get excited about the rebellion.  He is the oldest animal on the farm and kind of an Eeyore with a brain.  Very cynical.  Because he is longer-lived than the other animals, he sees the rebellion and the new regime as passing fads.  He’s pretty sure he’s going to live to see what comes next, so he just can’t drum up any enthusiasm for all the plots and machinations.  He’s one of my favorite characters simply for his detached amusement about all the goings-on.

Pick one or more of these books to add to a class about donkeys and you’re sure to perk up your littles’ interest.  Even just reading excerpts from the chapter books or the play can give your child a little insight into what we humans think of the donkey’s character.  Silly, foolish, stubborn, fiercely loyal… Yeah, that describes our donkey, too. 🙂

IMG_20150707_081841649

 

Love wins,

KT